General Motors underlined its leading position in alternative propulsion concepts with eight best performances at this year’s Michelin Challenge Bibendum (June 8 – 12, 2006). The HydroGen3, a hydrogen-powered fuel cell Vehicle based on the Opel Zafira, scored top marks three times, the Opel Zafira CNG and the Saab 9-5 BioPower twice, and the Saturn Vue Green Line, Representing a new generation of hybrid vehicles, once. Vehicles powered by natural gas, bioethanol, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell technology are important parts of General Motors’ strategy for reducing emissions and fuel consumption to ensure sustainable mobility in the future.
With hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles such as the HydroGen3, GM proves that alternative propulsion has already made the leap from the laboratory to the road. The development vehicle, based on the Opel Zafira, gets its electric power from 200 hydrogen fuel cell units connected in series in the fuel cell stack under the hood. These cells power the HydroGen3’s 60 kW/82 hp electric motor, which delivers a top speed of 160 km/h and accelerates the fuel cell car from zero to 100 km/h in about 16 seconds in almost complete silence. The car is currently undergoing a practical test as a customer service vehicle at IKEA’s furniture store in Berlin as part of the Clean Energy Partnership (CEP), Berlin’s government-aided hydrogen demonstration project. In April 2005, it won the Rallye Monte Carlo for fuel cell-powered vehicles, and in Paris it won top marks in the slalom, as well as the emissions and CO2 categories.
The seven-seat, natural gas-powered Opel Zafira 1.6 CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) compact van, which is about to be launched, achieved top marks in the tests for braking and noise. Together with the Combo 1.6 CNG, over 20,000 unit sales of the previous Zafira CNG model made Opel the clear natural gas vehicle market leader in Germany. Its monovalentplus concept is designed for maximum efficiency in natural gas operation. Fuel costs are around 30 percent less than diesel and as much as 50 percent less than gasoline, with emission levels also lower: 20 percent less CO2 than a gasoline model and 15 percent less than a diesel. Opel CNG vehicles’ total operating range is more than 500 kilometers.
The 9-5 2.0t BioPower from GM’s Swedish daughter Saab achieved its best marks in the acceleration and braking categories. Running on bioethanol (E85), its powerful engine develops more performance than a similar gasoline model, yet with reduced CO2 emissions. While engine performance increases from 110 kW/150 hp to 132 kW/180 hp, the combustion of bioethanol (E85), a renewable energy carrier, releases around
90 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than gasoline. The dynamic Saab BioPower, which is also available in other European countries including Germany, currently accounts for around 80 percent of all sales of the 9-5 model range in Sweden.
As the first vehicle of a new hybrid generation, GM presented the Saturn Vue Green Line in Paris, and it received a top rating in the fuel economy category straight away. The compact SUV consumes up to 20 percent less fuel than a conventional gasoline model. The innovative powertrain uses sophisticated electronic controls and a unique electric motor/generator mated to a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with variable valve timing to produce 127 kW/170 hp, considerably more than the 106 kW/143 hp provided by the 2.2-liter gasoline engine in the conventional Saturn Vue.
Three-tier strategy based on technology and economy
The short, mid and long-term three-tier strategy of GM, the world’s largest automaker, includes the on-going optimisation of conventional combustion engines, the increased use of alternative fuels such as natural gas and bioethanol, and broader application of hybrid propulsion where such systems would be most beneficial. In the long-term, the introduction of vehicles with hydrogen as a propulsion energy source offers the opportunity to establish the emission-free car as a completely environmentally compatible means of transport.